||AC Grayling in the Independent dwells on the release yesterday of data concerning the number of faith schools that have applied for free school status.
Adumbrating the superior rationality of the humanist, Grayling critiques the capacity of faith schools to engage in teaching methods that teach a child “how to think, not what to think”.
Grayling refers to the faith schools “proselytis[ing] the young, knowing that this is by far the chief way that religious belief survives in the world.”
He goes on to talk of religious schooling as “child abuse” and argues, “note what “faith” means: it means believing without evidence or reason, and even in the face of contrary evidence.”
Grayling lays at the door of religion that well-rehearsed canard on sectarian strife writing, “This seems fighting talk to those who are unaware what a cost the world pays in the divisions, conflicts and antipathies generated by religion.”
It should come as no surprise to the good professor that the greatest loss of life in the two great wars of the twentieth century had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with mundane matters: power, security and wealth accumulation. Reasons which continue to animate conflicts to the present day.
“Religion is the belief system of our remote ancestors who knew little about the universe, and made up stories to explain it to themselves. It is extraordinary that so many people still live by those stories, so manifestly inadequate as a resource for understanding the world and informing our moral lives.
“A young mind is a beautiful opportunity: receptive, curious, quick to soak up information and techniques; it is something to be treated with utmost respect, not twisted into shapes that conform to antique dogmas, but given every chance to grow and discover. That is what a free school should aim for: an education in intellectual autonomy.”
It is a great shame that Grayling cannot entertain the possibility that religious faith is something grounded in rationality and not in some absentminded adherence to rituals and practices that connote no meaning or significance to the believer.
The first verses revealed of the Qur’an and the exhortations throughout urging the reader to observe their environment and to be inquisitive of their nature and of the world around them could hardly be regarded as undermining “intellectual autonomy”. But perhaps no better a riposte to Grayling’s dismissive attitude to religion and its nurturing an inquisitive mind than Surah Al Baqarah, verse 256:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion, truth stands out clear from error”.